Mariners Grounds Crew Working to Make Safeco Football-Ready For Seattle Bowl

Dec. 7, 2001

Seattle, WA - The pitcher's mound is gone from Safeco Field and the grasswill have stripes by the weekend.

Soon the goal posts will be set as the Seattle Mariners' ballpark gets afacelift for football. The inaugural Seattle Bowl on Dec. 27 will be thefirst major non-baseball event in the 2-year-old stadium.

'We're going to turn it into a football field,' said Bob Christofferson,head groundskeeper for the Mariners. 'It's a little weird.'

Organizers hope the place that was packed all spring, summer and fall willfill up again when Stanford plays Georgia Tech.

There will still be a baseball feel to Safeco, the basepaths are stayingput. The 50-yard-line will go just beyond the cutout between third base andsecond.

Christofferson is protective of the grass and knows the field is going totake a beating.

'It's going to get a little chewed up,' he said. 'I am worried, don't get mewrong. So many people are worried the grass will not be ready for baseballseason, but that's not the case. Even if it's destroyed it can be replaced.'

Grass for the field is grown in Olympia, and 2{ fields worth is constantlygrowing.

'Some people are saying, 'What are you doing to a baseball field likethis?'' Seattle Bowl spokesman Rob Sullivan said. 'But they used to do thisall the time, at Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Wrigley Field. It's unique forSafeco, but they did it in the olden days.'

One goal post will stand in front of the visitors' bullpen, the other justin front of the home dugout. The teams will share a sideline, in right fieldand center field. Christofferson has received some setup tips from theSeattle Seahawks, and a professor of crop science from Penn State who was intown for a conference has assured him the field will be fine.

Ideally, the roof will be open for the game, Christofferson said.

It will be an adventure to play on a baseball field, Georgia Techquarterback George Godsey said. Godsey hasn't shared a sideline with anopponent since he was playing youth football.

'It's a little added variable,' he said of the infield dirt. 'But it'snothing that will change the game plan. It'll remind us a little bit of highschool because high school practice fields went right over the infield.'

Godsey went to high school with the son of Mariners manager Lou Piniella.Godsey and Derek Piniella played football together at Tampa Jesuit inFlorida, where Lou Piniella also went to school. Godsey followed theMariners' amazing season this year and even watched them play the White Soxin Chicago in the spring.

He kept up with the team through the playoffs. Seattle lost in the AmericanLeague Championship Series to the New York Yankees.

'I was disappointed the fans were drinking coffee,' he said. 'It's a time tobe wild.'

Godsey was impressed by the support of Seattle fans and said he could tellthere was a good atmosphere at Safeco.

'With a team from the East Coast, maybe it will provide another means forgetting excited for football,' he said.

By JANIE McCAULEY

AP Sports Writer

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